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UA Professor Helps Translate Eagerly Anticipated Novel
J. Philip Gabriel, who heads the UA's department of East Asian studies, was one of two experts in the U.S. called to translate the eagerly awaited Haruki Murakami's "1Q84."
International buzz surrounding this week's North America release of the English translation of Haruki Murakami's novel, "1Q84," was compared to the Harry Potter hype.
Bookstores stayed open until midnight to cope with the demand, and bloggers began translating bits of the novel, "leaking" information to fans who could not wait.
The effort in translating the 1,000-page book was tremendous, and it was University of Arizona's own J. Philip Gabriel who helped produce the translation.
Gabriel, who heads UA's department of East Asian studies, along with Harvard University professor Jay Rubin translated the three-part novel, which chronicles the interaction of a male author and a female serial killer across dimensions.
Gabriel, who also has translated for the legendary Nobel Prize-winner Kenzaburō Ōe, said that when Murakami first appeared in translation, "American readers had never encountered this kind of writing before from Japan, and they were surprised and delighted."
The work of Murakami, considered one of Japan's foremost authors and a recipient of the Yomiuri Prize for Literature, has been described as "post-modern," "difficult," "surreal" and "noirish" – with a "cult-like" following.
"Murakami is very conversant with all that makes up American popular culture-jazz, rock, film, literature – and he has a deep grasp of American modern fiction," Gabriel said.
"The timing of Murakami's arrival on the scene is also an important factor," Gabriel also said. "His work first began to appear in English right at the time when Japanese popular culture was starting to occupy a bigger space in the American imagination."
Gabriel has been one of Murakami's regular translators for about 20 years. His first published translation of Murakami's work was a short story published in 1988.
"It usually works out that Jay Rubin, his other English translator, and I take turns translating Murakami's work," said Gabriel said.
While Murakami continues to enthrall the literary world across dozens of languages, the forthcoming English translation of "1Q84" will arrive as a boon to English-speaking audiences, the UA and the East Asian Studies department.
And, in the future, Gabriel intends to incorporate the book in his teachings.
"I regularly teach a literature seminar that focuses entirely on Murakami's works," Gabriel said, adding that he intends to complete the book with the next class he teaches. "The work is a culmination of themes Murakami has been working on for years and will be a good way to wrap up the class."